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What is True Worship?

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A theme in this booklet is the concept of worship. In most people’s minds, worship involves some sort of public service with hymns of praise, prayers and a well-planned liturgy. Such services epitomize for many what is involved in worshipping God. Yet this provides only a partial picture.

A dictionary definition of worship is “reverence tendered to a divine being” and “an act expressing such reverence.” The word “worship” comes from an Old English word meaning “worth-ship” and refers to worthiness, respect and reverence directed toward God.

Do we show our appreciation for God’s worth?

Our worship of God would therefore literally mean showing our appreciation of God’s worth. Certainly forms of outward religious practice, with their rituals, ceremonies and prayers, can show worship for God. But we must pay careful attention to what God tells us in His Word, the Bible.

God makes it clear that He seeks those who will worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24 John 4:23-24 23 But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
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). When Satan sought to tempt Jesus Christ to worship him, Jesus sharply rebuked him, saying, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve” (Matthew 4:10 Matthew 4:10Then said Jesus to him, Get you hence, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.
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). The apostle Paul equated his worship of God with “believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets” (Acts 24:14 Acts 24:14But this I confess to you, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:
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), referring to what we call the Old Testament.

God wants us to worship Him in truth. We do this by honoring Him, serving Him and giving heed to His instructions. God asks us to live “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 Matthew 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
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; Deuteronomy 8:3 Deuteronomy 8:3And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live.
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). Our worship of God is shown in how we live our daily lives. Christianity is a way of life (Acts 18:25-26 Acts 18:25-26 25 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spoke and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. 26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him to them, and expounded to him the way of God more perfectly.
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; Acts 19:9 Acts 19:9But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spoke evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.
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, Acts 19:23 Acts 19:23And the same time there arose no small stir about that way.
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; Acts 22:4 Acts 22:4And I persecuted this way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.
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; Acts 24:14 Acts 24:14But this I confess to you, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:
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, Acts 24:22 Acts 24:22And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter.
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). It is a way of thinking, acting and living. It affects every aspect of one’s life.

What does true worship involve?

True worship of God involves nothing short of the inward transformation of the human heart by faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice and having Christ live in us through the Holy Spirit to help us obey. External worship practices alone are inadequate. God is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit, from a converted and transformed heart. (Be sure to read our free booklets You Can Have Living Faith and Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion . )

True worship, then, is much more than praise of God in a public worship service. This broader meaning is indicated by the fact that five Greek verbs are translated “worship” in the New Testament. “The worship of God is nowhere defined in Scripture … It is not confined to praise; broadly it may be regarded as the direct acknowledgement to God, of His nature, attributes, ways and claims, whether by the outgoing of the heart in praise and thanksgiving or by deed done in such acknowledgement” ( Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, “Worship, Worshiping,” p. 686).

Jesus Christ sharply rebuked the religious leaders of His day because they misrepresented God’s commands and substituted their own humanly devised teachings (Matthew 15:9 Matthew 15:9But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
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; Mark 7:7 Mark 7:7However, in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
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). He said such worship was in vain. Christ reserved the harshest words of warning for those who would profess to worship God (who say “Lord, Lord,” Matthew 7:21 Matthew 7:21Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.
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), but refuse to do God’s will or obey His laws (Matthew 7:21-23 Matthew 7:21-23 21 Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.
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). Such worship is empty and without merit, unacceptable to God and Jesus Christ.

We live at a time when many people are disillusioned with traditional worship services. They find them vacuous, without meaning and irrelevant to their lives. It is time to take a fresh look at what true worship is all about. When we come to understand its real significance, true worship becomes supremely relevant to our lives now and to our ultimate destiny.

The Sabbath is full of meaning today

Many people, professing Christians in particular, might be shocked to learn that the seventh-day Sabbath—God’s commanded day of rest and communal worship—is not abrogated for the Christian today. It remains very much in force, as shown throughout this booklet. It is full of meaning and supremely relevant to the lives of all humanity. We are missing some of God’s most wonderful blessings if we ignore the observance of His commanded day of rest.

True worship of God honors God’s commands concerning the Sabbath. In contrast, Sunday observance does not rest on God’s authority or that of His Word, but on the reasoning and tradition of man, including the adoption of pagan religious customs to honor Him, which He forbids (see Deuteronomy 12:19-32 Deuteronomy 12:19-32 19 Take heed to yourself that you forsake not the Levite as long as you live on the earth. 20 When the LORD your God shall enlarge your border, as he has promised you, and you shall say, I will eat flesh, because your soul longs to eat flesh; you may eat flesh, whatever your soul lusts after. 21 If the place which the LORD your God has chosen to put his name there be too far from you, then you shall kill of your herd and of your flock, which the LORD has given you, as I have commanded you, and you shall eat in your gates whatever your soul lusts after. 22 Even as the roebuck and the hart is eaten, so you shall eat them: the unclean and the clean shall eat of them alike. 23 Only be sure that you eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and you may not eat the life with the flesh. 24 You shall not eat it; you shall pour it on the earth as water. 25 You shall not eat it; that it may go well with you, and with your children after you, when you shall do that which is right in the sight of the LORD. 26 Only your holy things which you have, and your vows, you shall take, and go to the place which the LORD shall choose: 27 And you shall offer your burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, on the altar of the LORD your God: and the blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out on the altar of the LORD your God, and you shall eat the flesh. 28 Observe and hear all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you, and with your children after you for ever, when you do that which is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God. 29 When the LORD your God shall cut off the nations from before you, where you go to possess them, and you succeed them, and dwell in their land; 30 Take heed to yourself that you be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before you; and that you inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. 31 You shall not do so to the LORD your God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hates, have they done to their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. 32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
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). The hard question must be asked whether God accepts such worship when His clear commands regarding these matters are ignored.

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